There are two kinds of people — those who have learned how to work through frustration, and those who wish they had. From now on, if you’re in the middle of a task and tempted to give up — just do FIVE MORE.
Read FIVE MORE pages. Finish FIVE MORE math problems. Work FIVE MORE minutes.
Just as athletes build physical stamina by pushing past the point of exhaustion, you can build mental stamina by pushing past the point of frustration.
Just as runners get their second wind by not giving up when their body initially protests, you can get your “second mind” by not giving up when your willpower initially protests. Continuing to concentrate when your brain is tired is the key to S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G your attention span and building mental endurance.
ONE THOUGHT AT A TIME
Samuel Goldwyn said, “If I look confused, it’s because I’m thinking.” Feeling scatter-brained? Overcome perpetual preoccupation with the Godfather Plan — make your mind a deal it can’t refuse. Yes, the mind takes bribes. Instead of telling it NOT to worry about another, lesser priority (which will cause your mind to think about the very thing it’s not supposed to think about!), assign it a single task with start-stop time parameters.
For example, “I will think about how to pay off that credit card debt when I get home tonight and have a chance to add up my bills. For now, for the next thirty minutes from 1-1:30 pm, I will give my complete focus to practicing this presentation so I am eloquent and articulate when pitching this proposal to our VIP clients.”
Still can’t get other concerns out of your head? Write them down on your to-do list so you’re free to forget them. Recording worrisome obligations means you don’t have to use your brain as a “reminder” bulletin board, which means you can give your undivided attention to your top priority task.
Don’t feel like concentrating? Are you putting off a task or project you’re supposed to be working on? That’s a form of procrastination. R. D. Clyde said, “It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something were not working on.”
Next time you’re about to postpone a responsibility ask yourself, “Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?” Those three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself because they bring you face to face with the fact this task isn’t going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make this onerous task occupy more of your mind and time.
USE YOUR HANDS AS BLINKERS
Picture your mind as a camera and your eyes as its aperture. Most of the time, our eyes are “taking it all in” and our brain is in “wide-angle focus.” We can actually think about many things at once and operate quite efficiently this way (e.g., imagine driving down a crowded highway while talking to a friend, fiddling with the radio, keeping an eye on the cars beside you, and watching for your exit sign.)
What if you want to switch to telephoto focus? What if you have to prepare for a test and you need 100% concentration? Cup your hands around your eyes so you have “tunnel vision” and are looking solely at your text book. Placing your hands on the side of your face blocks out surroundings so they are literally “out of sight, out of mind.” Think about the importance of those words.
Want even better news? Does the name Pavlov r ring a bell? If you cup your hands around your eyes every time you want to switch from wide-angle to telephoto focus, that physical ritual becomes a Pavlovian trigger.
Remember? Pavlov rang the bell, fed the dog, rang the bell and fed the dog, until the dog started salivating as soon as he heard the sound of the bell. Similarly, using your hands as blinkers every time you want to narrow your focus teaches your brain to switch to “one track” mind and concentrate on your command.
SEE AS IF FOR THE FIRST OR LAST TIME
Want to know how to be “here and now” and fully present instead of mindlessly rushing here, there, and everywhere? Frederick Franck said, “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” Evelyn Underhill said, “For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.”
I constantly re-learn this lesson. One time I was giving my sons their nightly back rub. Although I was sitting right next to them, I might as well have been in the next country because I was thinking of the early morning flight I needed to take the next day and wondering if I had packed my hand-outs, if my ticket was in my purse, etc.
This guest post is courtesy of Jacqueline Gikow. She is an independent jeweler and the owner of Chelsea Rainbow. She designs and creates jewelry and home decor accessories. She currently lives in New York City, one of the most vibrant urban cities of the world and also the capital of fashion. She is a graduate of The College of Ceramics at SUNY with a BFA in sculpture and art history, an MFA in Arizona State University in environmental design, and an MID in industrial design from Pratt Institute.